Turks and Caicos Islands Rugby Football Union Record Historic Victory in Nassau
The Turks and Caicos Islands Men’s Rugby team made history in Nassau on Saturday 20th of May, defeating the Bahamas to win the Rugby Americas North Cup. The 26-19 victory was the first win for the TCI over a World Rugby ranked opponent and comes after defeating the Dominican Republic in Provo on the 6th of May.
The Bahamas had a dream start to the match scoring a penalty for accidental offside from the kickoff. The Bahamas were up 3-0 and set themselves up again on the TCI try line. The TCI regrouped with a strong rolling maul and marched 25 metres up the pitch to relieve the pressure. This was the first glimpse of TCI’s domination of the game up front. TCI continued to mount the pressure. As the TCI forwards stuck to their game plan, the Bahamian penalty count grew and Gareth Butler steered the team from his boot sending kick after kick into touch. Kadis Simmons was dominant in the line out and the Bahamas had no answer to the physicality of the TCI forward play. The TCI team, playing into the wind, set up camp in the Bahamian 22 and were unlucky not to score from a number of mauls as the referee deemed minor infringements to take place and allowed the Bahamas to temporarily release the pressure. The relentless pressure proved too much for the Bahamas and a line out on their own 5 metre line saw Mark Francis and Joe Ryan sack the Bahamian outhalf behind his try line. From the ensuing scrum Kadis Simmons broke free and scored giving TCI a 3-5 lead. The Bahamas used the wind at their backs for the final minutes of the first half and punished TCI indiscretions at the ruck with a penalty to go 6-5 up just before the halftime break.
The TCI team were confident starting the second half and from the whistle they were back in the Bahamian half rumbling over for a try to take the lead 6-12 as well as the momentum. This was short-lived as the referee held Mark Francis to account under the 2017 Global Law Trials and yellow carded him for a dangerous tackle on the impressive Bahamian flanker Dan Woodside. While down to 14 men the TCI conceded two penalty kicks at goal and then a converted try. TCI showed their resolve from the resulting kickoff when the Bahamian winger misjudged the cheeky bounce and watched the ball over the sideline inside his 22. Huge pressure from the TCI lineout resulted in shaky ball to the Bahamian flyhalf who then misjudged the pace of winger Davidson Martin. Martin charged down the clearing kick on the 5 metre line and the loose ball was eagerly pounced on by the outside centre over the try line. The score was 16-19 as the TCI returned to their full team and resumed their attack on the Bahamian line with Callis Jones, Trevor Walkin and Sean O’Neill unlucky not to go over for a try. From that attack the TCI won another scrum on the Bahamas line and again Kadis Simmons took the ball over the line to give the TCI a 26-16 lead. TCI’s second half penalties allowed the Bahamas to claw back to 26-19 before a break from the Bahamian centre in the last minute of the match set their fullback over the try line. Epic defense from the TCI backline pressured the fullback as he attempted to get under the posts and he was forced out of play, preventing the try. TCI cleared their line before jubilant scenes at the Winton Rugby Centre as the referee blew his final whistle.
TCI Captain Sean O’Neill was ecstatic after the match saying “for the Turks and Caicos to defeat the Bahamas is an amazing achievement. It is great to have the bragging rights over our nearest neighbours and rivals. The play from the entire team was brilliant. Everyone believed that we could win and the result was the proudest I have ever been on the rugby field”. Coach Simon Taylor praised the team’s preparation “We went up to Nassau with a game plan that the whole team bought into and we got the result we deserved.” Man of the Match was awarded to TCI’s Kadis Simmons.
TCIRFU President Keith Burant made the following statement after the win: “TCIRFU is extremely pleased to have defeated the Bahamas in a World Rugby sanctioned match in Nassau last weekend. This victory combined with wins over Curacao and the Dominican Republic within the last year makes the TCIRFU Men’s team the most successful ever International Team representing the TCI in International competition. The TCI team relied upon a group of veteran players and young talent to secure the three victories. It is proof that hard work and dedication by the players, coaches and corporate sponsors of TCIRFU over the years can and does pay dividends. The TCIRFU is thrilled to see so many young TCI players that have come through the junior rugby program now taking their place in the TCI Men’s side. The TCIRFU strongly believes that sport can build character, discipline and invoke an appreciation for sportsmanship and teamwork. All of these attributes are being displayed by the players in securing the last 3 victories. TCIRFU hopes that government will appreciate the value that all sports bring to the community and take steps to provide support to all sports in the future.”
The win raises TCI three places to 18th on the Americas Rankings